10 October, 2006
“Is it supposed to—“ That’s all I can get out before my ability to speak is gone.
A burning. Not the kind you feel when you touch the stove, when you chop an onion or eat a pepper beyond your threshold. This is a burning in my core. It comes from within and spreads like fire beginning with that arm. That arm penetrated by metal. Neatly injected.
My man of the hour stands beside me, saying nothing, watching what he’s done.
The fire spreads. Up my arm. Across my chest. Waves flood me. My entire body clenched in searing heat.
All I can do is cry. And struggle. To breathe. Rapid. Shallow. Breathing.
I have no choice. All control lost. I Wonder. What is happening? Is it supposed to feel like this? Has something gone wrong? Am I dying?
He looks at me. Says nothing. Turns. Leaves.
The burning reaches a new intensity between my legs. I must be peeing. I try to stop it. But all I can do is cry. Humiliation. Tears. Struggle. Seemingly every muscle contracted. I can’t move.
Alone. Terrified. No one to hold my hand. That’s all I want. Someone to hold my hand.
Alone. So very alone.
He returns a few terrifying minutes later. Won’t look me in the eye. Pries open my clenched fist. It snaps shut.
His first words: “If you would stop hyperventilating yourself, this wouldn’t be so bad.” Right, because this is my choice.
Through tears and clenched jaw I try to speak. Guttural sounds emerge.
Slowly, the burning begins to fade in its intensity.
Focus. Deep… breaths. Good. Deeper. Get control.
Less burning. I can put choppy words together now.
What happened? Was that supposed to happen? Is everything alright? Am I ok?
I don’t know what came out. Probably a disoriented combination of those questions.
Barely audible, averting his eyes, “The reaction caused your heart to stop beating. It was only for a few milliseconds, though. You’re fine”.
Before I can get over my incredulity and coordinate my mouth with my brain to speak, he is gone.
So that’s why it felt like dying.
I overcome my shock and think to look up over my shoulder. Heartrate: 178… 176… 174…
Momentarily I forget what just happened as all my attention is focused hopefully on those numbers which over the last several hours have become the sun around which my world revolves, for which sirens blared, modesty was forgotten and parents dropped everything.
…174… 172,,, 174… 172…
Come on… Keep dropping!
…174… 176… 174…
It didn’t work this time. What does that mean? What happens now? All I know is that I will NOT let them do what they just did ever again.
An hour later my mother arrives. Relief. For a while, I subconsciously revert to the childhood belief that mommy will make everything better. I’m safe now, I tell myself.
Reality is not far away. The comfort and love of my mother is powerless to slow down my heart. Kissing my boo-boo will not cease the electrical storm raging in my heart that is forcing it to beat three times faster than it should.
But she does hold my hand.
We wait hours until the doctor arrives. He says there is nothing that can be done until the specialist arrives the next morning. “Try to get some sleep.”
Around 9pm my mother leaves to go sleep in my apartment. 11:30pm my best friend arrives. Again, I am awash with relief. Not only will she do anything for me, but she will insist on it. She won’t leave my side. She climbs up on the narrow bed with me and helps me to sleep as best I can.
Early the next morning, my specialist arrives to lay out my options: wait and hope my tachycardia stops by itself, or defibrillate. I know there really is only one option: my heart must be stopped and restarted.
When the time comes, machines are wheeled into my room. I’m surrounded by medical staff of all sorts.
The last thing I remember is suddenly feeling very goofy and relaxed as the drugs shoot straight into my bloodstream. “I feel stoned! Huh.” Then I am out.
The next thing I know, I am waking up, through a drugged fog. Sticky pads are peeled from my chest. My mother is there. She is crying. I hear my friend’s voice. She’s beside her. They are speaking. And crying. I’m trying to figure out why.
“What happened?” I ask. I don’t remember what’s going on.
My mother is holding my face and kissing me, through her tears. “It worked! Your heart is beating normally again.”
The effects of the drugs wear off quickly and I become aware of my breathing. Oh, sweet forgotten pleasure! To breathe: deeply and fully! The storm has ended. The seas are calm.
I look down at my chest to see two large red welts, where my skin has been burned from the current sent through me. I regret that they will eventually fade. I want to save them as a reminder to never take my beating heart for granted.